Assessing the cognitive and work load of an inpatient safety dashboard in the context of opioid management

Appl Ergon. 2020 May;85:103047. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2020.103047. Epub 2020 Jan 31.


For health information technology to realize its potential to improve flow, care, and patient safety, applications should be intuitive to use and burden neutral for frontline clinicians. We assessed the impact of a patient safety dashboard on clinician cognitive and work load within a simulated information-seeking task for safe inpatient opioid medication management. Compared to use of an electronic health record for the same task, the dashboard was associated with significantly reduced time on task, mouse clicks, and mouse movement (each p < 0.001), with no significant increases in cognitive load nor task inaccuracy. Cognitive burden was higher for users with less experience, possibly partly attributable to usability issues identified during this study. Findings underscore the importance of assessing the usability, cognitive, and work load analysis during the design and implementation of health information technology applications.

Keywords: Cognitive load; Healthcare; NASA TLX; Patient safety.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Therapy Management*
  • Patient Safety
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Work / psychology*
  • Workload / psychology*


  • Analgesics, Opioid